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Preposizioni semplici ed articolate

What is a preposition?

A preposition is a part of speech that works as connector between two elements of the sentence (generally two nouns or pronouns), in order to provide qualifying details about the relationship that connect them.

For example, in the sentence “the pencil is on the table”, the preposition here doesn’t connect the words in a one+one relation – that’s a conjunction (e.g. Mark and Juliet are studying). Instead, a preposition adds some information regarding the relationship between the two elements that it connects. In this specific case it tells you where the pencil is in relation to the table: “the pencil is on the table’.

Prepositions are used both in English and Italian to express time, location, destination, possession, association, material constitution and manner.

The preposition often occurs right before a noun or a pronoun; with prepositional phrase we refer to the connecting preposition plus the words that go after it.

Prepositions in Italian

While the prepositions in English are just inonwithtoof and from, in Italian there are two different categories of prepositions: the preposizioni semplici (simple prepositions), that stand on their own and the preposizioni articolate (articulated prepositions), combined with the definite article (il, lo, la, l’, i, gli, le) that accompanies the noun that follows.

Preposizioni semplici (Simple prepositions)

The most common preposizioni semplici – and their most common meanings are:

Di  – Of

A – To, at, in

Da – From, by, since

In – In, to

Con – With

Su – On, on top of

Per – For

Tra / Fra –   Between / among

Bear in mind that Italian prepositions also have many idiomatic uses that, just like the idiomatic expressions in English, are best learned by memorisation and with time and practice.

Examples:

Mangio da solo. // I eat by myself.

Questi bicchieri sono dipinti a mano. //These glasses are painted by hand.

Vado in treno. //I go by train.

Domani andiamo da Andrea. // Tomorrow we’re going to Andrea’s.

Moreover, several Italian verbs require to be followed by a specific preposition, such as:

Avere bisogno di – To need

Avere voglia di – To feel like/ want / crave

Parlare di – To talk about

Pensare a – To think about

Credere in/a – To believe in

Decidere di – To decide to

italian_grammar

 

Preposizioni articolate (Articulated Prepositions)

As already mentioned, the Italian preposizioni are called articolate when combined to form single words with the definite articles that accompany the nouns that they refer to. The prepositions and the definite articles combine as follows:

A –   Al   all’   allo   alla   ai   agli   alle

DI –  Del   dell’   dello   della   dei   degli   delle

DA – Dal   dall’   dallo   dalla   dai   dagli   dalle

IN –  Nel   nell’   nello   nella   nei   negli   nelle

SU – Sul   sull’   sullo   sulla   sui    sugli   sulle

As you can see, some of these contractions require dropping or adding a vowel, the apostrophe is used in front of words starting with a vowel (e.g. all’angolo / sull’albero).

Examples:

Vado a + il cinema à Vado al cinema. // I go to the cinema.

Questa è la macchina di+le mie amiche. // Questa è la macchina delle mie amiche. // This is my friends’ car.

Marco è appena tornato da+la sua vacanza. à Marco è appena tornato dalla sua vacanza. // Marco just came back from his holidays.

Il cappotto è in + il armadio à Il cappotto è nell’armadio. // The coat is in the wardrobe.

Il gatto è su+il tetto. à Il gatto è sul tetto. // The cat is on the roof.

 

Per and tra / fra never combine with the definite article. Con used to be articulated in the past; nowadays you may come across it in literature or in informal conversation in some specific Italian regions.

In some specific cases the preposition doesn’t combine with the article.

For example:

Vado a casa. // I go home.

When in is used with common places (e.g. bank, library, church, etc.), the preposizione becomes articolata only if in the sentence there is also a specification or description of the place.

For example:

Studiamo in biblioteca. // We study in the library.

Studiamo nella biblioteca principale. // We study in the main library.

Vado in chiesa. // I go to church.

Vado nella banca di mio marito. // I go to my husband’s bank.

The article is also missing when the preposition goes right before a possessive adjective used with singular family members.

For example:

Questa è la macchina di mia madre. // This is my mum’s car.

Domani vado da mio fratello. // Tomorrow I go to my brother’s.

Italian prepositional expressions

Here below a list of common prepositional expressions – some of them are made combining other words with di and a (that will become articulated as before if followed by definite article + noun).

durante – During

invece di – Instead of

insieme a – Together with

davanti a – In front of

in cima a – At the top of

in mezzo a – In the middle of

attorno a –  Around

in fondo a –  At the bottom of

rispetto a –  With respect to

vicino a – Near to

fino a –  Until

prima di – Before

a causa di – Until

fuori di  – Outside

 

The challenge

Italian prepositions, just like many other grammar elements of the Italian language, at the beginning can be a bit hard to recognise and understand. When studying Italian you just need to be a little patient: with good practice and time, you will get more and more comfortable and start to confidently use all these odd grammar elements – and even appreciate them for contributing in making Italian such a rich, melodic and lovely language to listen to!

Now that you have learnt a little bit more about the prepositions in Italian, what about testing yourself with a little challenge? Below you can find the recipe of polpette al sugo e fritte, a delicious Italian comfort food.

Close your eyes and imagine: it is Sunday morning and you wake up with this sweet smell invading the whole house. You go to the kitchen and there she is, an Italian granny making polpette for you!

Well, if you are not in the position to expect to find an Italian granny cooking in your kitchen, I guess there is only a solution: embrace your inner Italian granny and make this lovely food for your family and friends!

Polpette are super easy to make and so, so tasty: believe me, you will conquer their heart – and their stomach!

First, read the text twice and then underline or highlight all the prepositions that you can find, and then check against the key solution.  Now it is time for you to cook!

polpette_al_sugo

The recipe

Polpette al sugo e fritte

Ricetta per 20 polpette

Ingredienti

500 g polpa mista di maiale macinata

500 g salsa di pomodoro

200 g pane vecchio senza crosta

50 g prezzemolo tritato

50 g prosciutto crudo

2 uova intere

1 spicchio di aglio tritato

1 cipolla grande tritata

Parmigiano Reggiano Dop

farina 00

latte

olio extravergine di oliva

olio di arachide

sale

pepe

 

Ammorbidite il pane in 150 g di acqua e 150 g di latte.

Impastatelo con la polpa di maiale, le uova, l’aglio, la cipolla, il prezzemolo e

2 cucchiai di parmigiano, pepe.

Lavorate il composto finché gli ingredienti non saranno ben amalgamati.
Formate le polpette con metà del composto, infarinatele leggermente, appoggiatele sulla placca coperta con carta da forno, ungetele con un filo di olio extravergine e infornatele a 210 °C per 7-8 minuti. Sfornatele e terminate la cottura nella salsa di pomodoro bollente, per altri 10 minuti.

Unite all’impasto restante il prosciutto tritato e altri 2 cucchiai di parmigiano. Formate polpettine leggermente schiacciate e friggetele nell’olio di arachidi per 7-8 minuti. Scolatele su carta da cucina e salatele.

 

Key solution

Polpette al sugo e fritte

Ricetta per 20 polpette

Ingredienti

500 g polpa mista di maiale macinata

500 g salsa di pomodoro

200 g pane vecchio senza crosta

50 g prezzemolo tritato

50 g prosciutto crudo

2 uova intere

1 spicchio di aglio tritato

1 cipolla grande tritata

Parmigiano Reggiano Dop

farina 00

latte

olio extravergine di oliva

olio di arachide

sale

pepe

Ammorbidite il pane in 150 g di acqua e 150 g di latte.
Impastatelo con la polpa di maiale, le uova, l’aglio, la cipolla, il prezzemolo e 2 cucchiai di parmigiano, pepe.

Lavorate il composto finché gli ingredienti non saranno ben amalgamate.
Formate le polpette con metà del composto, infarinatele leggermente, appoggiatele sulla placca coperta con carta da forno, ungetele con un filo di olio extravergine e infornatele a 210 °C per 7-8 minuti. Sfornatele e terminate la cottura nella salsa di pomodoro bollente, per altri 10 minuti.

Unite all’impasto restante il prosciutto tritato e altri 2 cucchiai di parmigiano. Formate polpettine leggermente schiacciate e friggetele nell’olio di arachidi per 7-8 minuti. Scolatele su carta da cucina e salatele.

 

Buon appetito!

Interested in learning Italian and improve your cooking skills?

Subscribe to my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaVwBqct6-Tb1swX4s_9-1A  and learn the basics of Italian and how to make authentic Italian meatballs in tomato sauce, pizza, ciambellone (Grandma’s cake) and much more!

Grazie mille!

Raffaella

 

Raffaella Palumbo

Passionate about languages & good food. I hold a Honours Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish and French, a Master’s degree in Intercultural Communication for Business and Professions and the CLTA teaching certificate. My hobby is chasing the sun around the globe. My favourite quote: “One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way” (Frank Smith)

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